There is No Cookie Cutter Approach to Labour Relations
Leanne Gray, Director of People Services, Toronto CCAC, 2015
As an HR professional or senior leader, you spend years mastering the labour relations fundamentals. Not the textbook fundamentals, but the behaviours, the actions, communication styles—the way you handle sensitive situations. You log numerous failures, like the time you told the union that the grievance was invalid because they used red ink, the time you were new and mistook a seasoned union employee for a manager and accidentally told them your grievance strategy, and the time(s) you said “sure, we can do that” at the Labour/Management table when you really should have said “let me look into that.”
You learn. Your teachers are your HR superiors, your management teams and your unions. Yes. Let the unions teach you too. And be open to their wisdom. Because when it comes to positive labour relations there is no cookie cutter approach.
Let’s let “HR Novice” show us how his style grew with his experience...
In a grievance discussion at a manufacturing plant, the union executive speak in loud accusatory tones toward management. Management frequently does not follow through on the tabled issues and communication is very disjointed. The social norm for front line management is to avoid union discussions and rule with a heavy hand. There is very little collaboration. The largely uneducated and non-English-speaking employees do as they are told, fearful of reprisals. Modelling his behaviour from upper management, the HR Novice acts in a similar fashion and soon is regarded as aloof and “just another white hat.” The business of the day, however, is booming and upper management use this as the only success indicator. The union executive predominantly ignore HR Novice and instead form their own hierarchy and culture to deal with issues in the workplace. When HR Novice does seek to assert himself, often in the form of shouting, he is met with dissonance and soft laughter. Unknowingly and still with the backing of the senior managers, HR Novice thinks he is a successful communicator with the union and inwardly, is proud of his accomplishments.
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The Need for Lean HR: Reinvent or RIP HR
Diane Wiesenthal, FCHRP, Corporate People Responsibility® Ltd, 2014
RIP HR. That will be the tombstone on the HR profession if we don’t get our act together soon. Sadly it seems we just cannot agree on a unified national approach on the professional association front, or even in some provincial regions. It’s no wonder that we lack the ability to move HR to the next level in business. What’s most unfortunate is that as a profession that should be recognized for leadership, vision and collaboration, we are setting a very poor example. We’ve been talking about the same old tired things for years, if not decades. Hence we are still dealing with the age-old issues of ineffective people management practices and the real value that HR can add to expedite business versus blocking it by protecting the institutional shrine of outdated HR programs. Most of these programs are rooted in elaborate and complex administration (look how smart we are) and they are costly on many fronts. While we most certainly need to salvage and maintain some essential elements of the past, there is a renewed critical need to completely reinvent the HR profession to support and enable business today; otherwise tomorrow businesses will find a way to circumvent the HR profession or the HR department entirely. In fact, successful entrepreneurial businesses have already sped away from main stream HR. It’s not that they don’t value it, they are forging their own path.
Consequently there is real need to streamline or adopt “Lean HR” to profoundly shift our profession forward. The term “Lean” means to eliminate or minimize waste and drive efficiency, which is exactly what needs to be done with HR programs. I say this with certainty as I’ve lived in this world at virtually every level of the profession within organizations for over 40 years, and I have felt the effects first hand. The effects of using out dated tools and the toll it takes on our professional and personal lives, not to mention on our organizations and our people - it’s staggering. Having lived through this for many decades, I now know, that you don’t know what you don’t know, until you know it. It’s not that HR practitioners aren’t working hard. In fact they are probably the hardest working crews in industry today - consumed and engaged almost entirely in organizational firefighting, 24/7. It’s a smoking hot mess is what it is.
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The Coaching ‘Explosion’: Exploring the Growing Field of Coaching, and the Value it Brings to HR
Françoise Morissette, Queen’s IRC Facilitator
Have you ever wondered why the field of coaching is growing so fast? Although it has been around for ages, it is currently enjoying a worldwide surge in popularity, on both the professional and personal fronts. So how do we explain this sudden craze?
The value of coaching has never been in doubt as, over the centuries, it has more than proven itself. The difference is that now, more people “get it” and understand how to use it effectively.
Coaching has always been a cornerstone of development, when seeking to turn novices into qualified practitioners. One such system is apprenticeship, first developed in the Middle Ages: “A master craftsman was entitled to employ young people as an inexpensive form of labour, in exchange for providing food, lodging and formal training in the craft. Most apprentices aspired to becoming master craftsmen on completion of their contract (usually a term of seven years), but a significant proportion would never acquire their own workshop.” (1)
The objective was, not only to transfer knowledge, but to enhance know-how (requiring extensive practice), and sharpen judgment (requiring judicious coaching). For instance, chefs need not only to know a recipe; they must be able to successfully make it, so that it turns out perfect... every time. This implies in-depth knowledge of ingredients’ properties, and mastery of cooking techniques.
Although the apprenticeship system started in trades, it is also used in credentialed professions, such as accounting, law, medicine, and dentistry, where students complete internships to ensure their proficiency in execution.
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